WASHINGTON – Opponents of Site 104 are asking for a chance to present their case Tuesday at a congressional briefing on the proposed dredge-dumping site in the Chesapeake Bay.
Federal and state officials are scheduled to brief members of Maryland’s congressional delegation on the controversial site, which stalled this summer when the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to redo its draft environmental impact statement on the site.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, organized the briefing, which will include presentations from officials with the Army Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland Port Administration and Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari.
“Mr. Hoyer wanted to give the Maryland delegation an opportunity to become fully informed and hear all sides about the issue,” said his spokeswoman, Debra DeShong.
But Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said he hopes to bring three people from his district to testify against Site 104.
“This meeting is about dumping material in my district,” said Gilchrest, a leading opponent of the site. Gilchrest said Thursday that he was negotiating with Hoyer to get speaking time for his constituents before the delegation.
Site 104 is an 1,800-acre, open-water site about a mile off the northern tip of Kent Island where the Maryland Port Administration wants to dump materials that have been dredged from bay shipping channels. The Port of Baltimore needs periodic dredging to keep shipping channels navigable.
An estimated 18 million cubic yards of dredge would be dumped under the Site 104 project.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation charged that any open-water dumping site, including Site 104, would increase levels of sediment pollution in the bay, damaging water quality as well as species such as oysters, crabs, rockfish, flounder and bluefish.
The foundation has called for alternatives to Site 104, which Gilchrest said is a temporary and costly solution – it will cost about $100 million but will be at capacity after about 20 years, he said.
In July, the Army Corps withdrew the first draft environmental impact statement and agreed to redo it under pressure from opponents. The bay foundation said the first draft had several shortcomings and oversights. Gilchrest said the Corps agreed to use some EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service suggestions that were not used in the first draft.
Environmental groups believe that redrafting the impact statement could delay the decision about Site 104 for at least a year.
The Corps expects to release a new study by December, said Lucy Lather, the Corps’ Baltimore District spokeswoman.
Gilchrest is the only member of the delegation so far to go on record against the proposal. If nothing else, Tuesday’s meeting could spur other delegation members to come forward and state their views about the project, opponents say.
“Not everybody has taken position publicly,” said George Chmael, the acting executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Maryland. “It wouldn’t be surprising.”
The meeting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 2105 of the Rayburn House Office Building and is open to the public.